August 3, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

It seemed like it was just yesterday that Marvel was launching their movie studio with the first Iron Man movie. Who could have predicted how high they would fly? Certainly not I. On top of that, I never would have guessed that they would have taken their cinematic universe to the cosmic level that they have. Well, we got a taste of it with the Chitauri in The Avengers. Now we have Marvel going full throttle into deep space with Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie may not be the best of the bunch, but it has a lot going for it and it is one of the most fun movies I have seen this year. Seriously, it is a lot of fun.

This movie is less superhero origin story and more space opera. It is much more reminiscent of a Star Wars adventure than watching a spider bite Peter Parker or watching Captain America get injected with super soldier serum. This is all about watching an unlikely group of rejects coming together, finding a common bond and fighting their way to the finish. For the audience it is a lot like meeting some new friends.

At the center of the story is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the self proclaimed outlaw known as Star Lord. He is from Earth, abducted on the same night he lost his mother to her battle with cancer. We learn this bit in an incredibly effective pre-title sequence of Peter as a young boy. We pick up his story 26-years later. He is now a space-faring scavenger. His latest find is a metal orb that seems to have gotten attention from a lot of people, including Rondu (Michael Rooker), a rather nasty fellow and Peter's sort of boss. Then there is Ronan (Lee Pace), an alien of the Kree race who wants the orb to give to Thanos. There are others involved, but it really is just a MacGuffin to keep everything moving.

As I sit here, struggling to write this (as happens so often), I realize that any plot description I give is just a replication of what so many other critics have already done, and probably better. So, I have decided to forgo that part of this and try to offer a few of my reactions to the movie. I find this is one of those movies that I really liked but am having a hard time finding the words to say about it. The bottom line, before I go any further, is that this is a very entertaining movie that satisfies on many levels while not necessarily being “the best” at any of them.

I found the action to be well done, but not great. Same with the story, it does what it needs to do but doesn't necessarily stand on its own. What makes this movie shine is the writing and the acting. The characters are fantastic, it does not take long before we are right at home with them. We learn their stories, we see the reasons for them sticking together, and we like them better for it.

The movie is funny, surprisingly so. No, it isn't a comedy, but it is just funny in an organic fashion that feels right for the characters and the situations, never forced. The sci-fi-ness of it is really quite well done, I liked the Han Solo/Chewbacca vibe I got from Rocket and Groot, not to mention the irreverent Captain Kirk element to Peter Quill.

Besides the humor and the references something else I really liked was the emotional pull the film had. That opening scene may have been a touch manipulative, but it still really works and helps to underline the sense of loss that the characters have and how it helps to bind them together to make this rag tag team.

James Gunn, who first really got my attention with Slither, but actually enjoyed his writing for the Scooby Doo movies and Dawn of the Dead, has really stepped up here. It feels like he was making something to fit into the Marvel Universe while also trying to inject some personality and flavor to separate it from the usual superhero fare. It is a success on all counts. Plus, it is playing a big part in setting up this phase of the Marvel universe.

I feel like I am beginning to ramble and not offering much, so I will try to cut this off. Just let it be said that this is fun, funny, exciting, and the characters already feel like old friends. I eagerly look forward to more adventures with this group.

Highly Recommended.

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